National Cancer Prevention Month: 5 ways to reduce cancer risks in aging adults
Cancer is a sensitive topic, but it is never a topic to avoid. It is more important than ever to keep up on regular cancer screenings as adults continue to age.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two-thirds of all new cancers are diagnosed among adults aged 60 years and older. As the number of adults living to older ages continues to increase, so too will the number of new cancer cases.
Cancer is often a culmination of many factors over time, meaning there are still opportunities in later adulthood to minimize risk and prevent or delay the onset of certain cancers.
Risk in the sun
According to one study, skin cancer incidence rates are highest among U.S. older adults. Coincidentally, little is known about sun protection behaviors and sunburn among adults aged 65 and older. Sunburn at any age is associated with an increased skin cancer risk, and more than one in ten older adults participating in the study had experienced sunburn in the past year. Doing your part to practice safety in the sun will do more than prevent an itchy, uncomfortable sunburn. Wearing sunscreen, protective hats or clothing, and limiting overexposure to strong sun rays is a vital first step in preventing melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers.
Mind over matter
It’s been said that a strong and positive mindset can be a driving force that keeps people going and helps them to overcome adversity. This rings true scientifically as well, according to another study. Internalized negativity contributed to lower physical and mental well-being levels in older adults, including those with serious illnesses. Higher levels of positive attitudes toward aging appeared to be a protective factor for health in older adults. Educational interventions about positive aspects of aging, modifying negative automatic thoughts, and promoting optimism may be helpful for adults’ attitudes and thereby can improve physical and mental health in older adults. In short, a positive attitude and optimism for your health and age can work wonders in preventing age-related decline in health.
Get screened while you’re healthy
Annual cancer screenings may seem like a pain, and they can feel unnecessary if you are confident that you’re in good health. However, because aging adults make up two-thirds of new cancer diagnoses, it is more important than ever to attend each screening. When screenings are performed regularly, doctors are more likely to catch any declining health or onset of disease at its earliest stages, giving patients the strongest chance to fight them off. Family history is also important to consider—if cancer is known to affect your family, it is crucial never to miss a screening.
Limit or expel known carcinogens
If you are a smoker, you have known of the health risks for a long time now. You may not have progressive health issues yet, but people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke, according to the CDC. Even smoking a few cigarettes a day or smoking occasionally increases the risk of lung cancer.
Similarly, regular consumption of large amounts of alcohol can lead to several forms of cancer, including liver, mouth, throat, breast, colon/rectum and esophagus cancers. Alcohol damages cells in all of these parts of the body over time, and the amount of alcohol (rather than the type) is the most critical associated risk factor.
As always, diet matters here as well. Consuming large amounts of heavily processed foods or fast-food leads to a buildup of chemicals and harsh ingredients that the body does not process well. Eating whole foods and thoughtfully prepared meals offers your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs to promote good health and stave off disease.
Take loneliness seriously
Emerging research points to chronic social stressors, such as social isolation, loneliness, and financial hardship, linked to accelerated biological aging and increased cancer risk later in life. Aging adults experience these stressors at a disproportionate rate than other age groups. Strategies involving families and caregivers promote positive attitudes about aging and engage many different community sectors to potentially prevent or delay the development of cancer at older ages.
Visiting Angels Knoxville offers in-home caregivers that can provide a variety of services to promote good health and prevent cancer and other diseases in the Greater Knoxville Area, including Anderson, Loudon, and Roane Counties. From healthy meal preparation, travel assistance for doctor appointments and screenings, and companionship and friendship, our caregivers can assist in giving you, or your aging loved one the best possible shot at preventing or slowing the onset of cancer. Whether it helps with a few of the items above or a more full-time assistance schedule, reach out to schedule an in-home consultation with a caregiver to develop the right plan for you at (865) 531-4833.